September 9, 2010

Remembering ... Tiznow

Tiznow was his name, but he just as easily could have been called Cee’s Squared. He was a late developing son of the speedy California sire Cee’s Tizzy out of the Seattle Song mare Cee’s Song. Not exactly blessed with the pedigree of stars, he was bred in California by the late Cecilia Straub-Rubens and was owned by her Cee’s Stable and Michael Cooper. Tiznow would not make it to the races until the Spring of his three-year-old year, but by the time his career was over a year and a half later, I called him by another name … Mr. Breeders’ Cup.

A title like that does not come easy, and so it would be for Tiznow, who earned it with each and every stride. He would not register his first victory until the last day of May. The 8 ½ length win was impressive but it came in only a maiden race. It was evident though that Tiznow was flourishing around two turns and the powerful bay colt quickly graduated from maiden winner to graded stakes winner in his very next start. After that hard earned neck victory over the highly regarded Dixie Union in the Grade 3 Affirmed, Tiznow would graduate into grade 1 racing, where he would primarily stay for the remainder of his career. He had a few game losses that Summer in second place finishes in the Swaps and Pacific Classic. Improvement for trainer Jay Robbins was happening week to week, and by the Fall he was romping in the Super Derby and beating top West Coast horses in the Goodwood. It was obvious he was a horse on the rise and the Breeder’s Cup Classic would be next.

Tiznow, from his outside post position, pressured Albert the Great every step. As the field straightened out Tiznow was moving better than his strong and speedy rival, but a new challenge was coming in the form of Irish champion Giant’s Causeway. I remember thinking the European horse on the outside was going to zoom right on by. Giant’s Causeway looked great that day, and Tiznow had been battling on the lead the whole way, so when the O‘Brien horse came right up to him, I figured Tiznow was in trouble. That is when the true heart of Tiznow appeared for the world to see. He was not the fastest horse I have ever seen, but he was quite possibly the toughest. Tiznow dug in like a bulldog protecting a steak bone. Suddenly it was apparent that there was no way that the European superstar was going to run away from him. Giant’s Causeway carried his momentum as far as it would take him, but it was now all about the heart of a soon to be American champion. Finding new gears that by right should not have been there, Tiznow looked Giant’s Causeway in the eye, which spelled doom for the European. I was in the crowd at Churchill Downs that day and was thrilled as Tiznow and his regular rider, Chris McCarron, crossed the wire first in a thrilling photo finish.  A maiden less than six months before, Tiznow had earned championship honors.



Defending Horse-of-the-Year Tiznow came back in 2001 and he was strutting his stuff. In March, he made a mockery of a full field of 12 in perhaps the most important older race in California, the Big ‘Cap. The way he won at Santa Anita that day, I felt like it was a safe bet to put my money down on Tiznow for that year’s BC Classic even though it was still almost eight months away. A monkey wrench was thrown into the mix though in the form of a wrenched back. It would keep him away from the races for six months and put a big question mark on Tiznow’s readiness for the Classic. He returned to the races just seven weeks before the Breeder’s Cup, and in two races he looked competitive, but by no means, like the Tiznow we had come to know. So off these third place finishes in both the Woodward and the Goodwood, the defending Horse of the Year would head back to New York for the 2001 Breeders’ Cup, but would he be up to the immense challenge of the Classic?

Tiznow, from his outside post position, relaxed outside of Albert the Great and pounced as they straightened out. The problem was his pounce was not as sharp as Sakhee. I remember thinking the European horse on the outside was going to swoosh right on by. Sakhee looked so strong that day, and Tiznow in between horses did not look like he had the acceleration to stay with the Arc winner. That is when the true heart of Tiznow appeared for the world to see. He was not the fastest horse I have ever seen, but he was quite possibly the toughest. Tiznow dug in like a bulldog protecting a steak bone. Suddenly it was apparent that there was no way that the European superstar was going to run away from him. Sakhee carried his momentum as far as it would take him, but it was now all about the heart of the American champion. Finding new gears that by right should not have been there, Tiznow looked Sakhee in the eye, which spelled doom for the Godolphin runner. The crowd at Belmont Park went bonkers as Tiznow and Chris McCarron crossed the wire first in a thrilling photo finish. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Tiznow had done it again.



I could now rattle of his lifetime stats, but that was not what Tiznow was all about. You can not see the heart, mind, and soul of this magnificent animal simply by reading past performances or money earned. I could also choose to rattle off the countless stakes winners he has sired since his retirement from racing. Suffice it to say as a stallion, Tiznow is a stud. He was a great example of outrunning his pedigree. These type of horses are often disappointments in the breeding shed. No one told that to Tiznow. He currently stands at WinStar Farm and is one of the best sires in the world, and one of my personal favorites. Anyone who thought that he would not be a great sire underestimated this great horse, which of course, for Tiznow, was far from the first time.

Tiznow was respected, but not expected to win either Classic by the majority of racing fans. Odds of 9-1 and then a shade under 7-1 proved that. In 2000 people doubted that a relatively new horse on the scene, and a three-year-old at that, could defeat the world’s best on the biggest stage. Tiznow proved them wrong. One year later, people doubted that he could overcome his physical problems and defeat the world’s best on the biggest stage once again. Tiznow proved them wrong. It was not until his last hurrah that the true greatness of Tiznow could be fully appreciated.

One performance like his in the Breeders’ Cup Classic would have been enough, but this hickory horse refused to stop at one. Two fantastic years and remarkably similar and equally admirable performances were turned in by the unheralded California bred that will forever mark Tiznow‘s special place in racing history. Someday another other horse will come along who has what it takes to win two Breeder’s Cup Classics, possibly even this year, but Tiznow will always be the first. Tiznow turned the century for American horse racing in grand style. He proved to be a champion in every sense of the word. He was talented yes, but it was his enormous heart and will to win that set him apart from the rest. He was Mr. Breeders’ Cup. He is a Hall of Famer. I remember you Tiznow.

Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo

9 comments:

william said...

yes brian...your rememberance of tiznow brings out the courage that he showed over his career...those 2 breeders cup races were very exciting to see..thanks for remebering tiznow!

Ann said...

He was a spectacular racehorse!! And turning out to be a great sire as well.

~Marti said...

Tiznow remains my ALL time favorite horse to photograph. He know where the camera is, and will hold the most striking, stauesque poses for as long as that camera is pointed at him. I have been fortunate enough to visit with him several times at Winstar (what a fantastic place, and people!), and his presence is undeniable, and not just due to his sheer size!

I also enjoying telling race fans outside of CA, when they're getting just a wee bit too arrogant about their racing being better than CA..."Yeah? Call me when your state gets a two-time BCC winner!"...all in good fun, LOL, but it ends the debate every time ;-)

LDP said...

I could watch his BCC's for days. He was the definition of courage.

Silent Sunday said...

Obviously, by my self imposed nickname on fb, you can tell he is one of my favorites...lol Tiznow exemplifies the true meaning of heart just as you mentioned Brian. One of my greatest experiences was visiting Winstar last year, and before visiting with him they show his BCC's back to back. By the second one I had tears rolling down my face. He is one of the most put together horses I have ever seen in person. This horse pulled on a lot of emotions for me and I still watch his two classics to draw inspiration from...heck if The NE Patriots coach used it as inspiration to his team, it must be good!

Brian Zipse said...

Interesting info Marti ... Tiznow is clearly a multi-talent! SS, thanks for sharing. It is amazing the emotions these creatures can bring out in us. Not a Belichick fan, but clearly he is a sharp man.

Sharon M said...

"dug in like a bulldog protecting a steak bone" I love it! He was indeed one of the most courageous I've ever seen! He's also one of my all time favorites! As for the pedigree, he is a direct male decendant of Man O War through Relaunch. I'm certainly no expert, but I believe he inherited a good portion of those genes and now is passing them along to his offspring.

Aaron said...

I still don't think Tiznow gets the credit he deserves. I mean he won two great Classic's in a row against the best of the world. Thanks Brian for doing such a great job in celebrating him.

Jonathan said...

Giant's Causeway v Tiznow two iron horses.

Funny you mention Tiznow eyeballing "The Iron Horse" as Kevin Darley in the QEII (Mile G1) deliberately attacked wide and late on Observatory as he was scared of Giant's habit of fighting back. 2 Titans battling it out and Sahkee was no back number for a turf bred.

It's why we love the game watching the stars grind each other into the dirt (literally).

I like horse safety but a synth race is not the epic battle where horses blast ludicrous fractions and hang on.